We may never have a white winter in San Diego, but if you drive just an hour east of town at the right time of year, you’ll find yourself in a winter wonderland of sorts — at least San Diego’s version of one. Julian is a great place to spend the day with your family any time of year. From apple pie to carriage rides, this cool historic town has a little something for everyone.

Packing up the family for a day or overnight trip can be exciting for kids. What’s less than exciting, however, is a looonnnggg drive with little ones. Spending hours in the car, with your kiddos snapped securely in their car seats, listening to cries of, “I’m hungry!” and “Are we were yet?” Pass.

Life’s a beach for San Diegans because we have two seasons: summer and a slightly cooler version of summer. However, we’re lucky to live super close to the mountain town of Julian, where you can experience real, live seasons — four of them!

What To Do:

Eat Pie. Julian is famous for its pie. In fact, you’ve probably picked up a Julian Pie Company pie your local grocery store, or maybe your aunt passed one off as her own at Thanksgiving dinner! For over 20 years, the The Julian Pie Company has been pleasing pie lovers, so don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy a real Julian Pie, straight form the source.

2225 Main Street
Julian, Ca 92036
Online: www.julianpie.com

Pan for gold. Kids love striking it rich, so visit the Julian Mining Company where you can pan for gold and so much more. Activities vary seasonally and include candle making, tractor-drawn hayrides, apple cider making, candle dipping and a petting zoo.

4444 State Highway 78
Wynola, Ca 92036
Online: www.julianminingcompany.com

Take a carriage ride. Enjoy an authentic horse and carriage ride through downtown Julian with the Main Street Carriage Company. The ride is narrated and remember that Julian is historic, so there’s a little learning during this activity!

Corner of Main Street and Washington

Go hiking. When the weather is nice, Julian is a beautiful place to go for a hike at the William Heise County Park. If you have young children, there’s a simple one-half mile loop — the self-guided nature trail. If your clan is a little older, you can hike up to 5.75 miles. Choose from several trails.

Online: www.co.san-diego.ca.us/parks

When To Go:

Because Julian experiences four distinct seasons, something that San Diegans will certainly enjoy, you can visit any time of year. If your kids want to see snow, the winter months are fun, but fall, spring or summer are just as great. You can call (760) 765-1857 to learn the weather conditions at any time.

Where To Eat:

Miner’s Diner. For a blast-from-the-past lunch experience, Miner’s Diner is a must during your day trip to Julian. It’s an old-fashioned diner and soda bar with the friendliest employees possible and is very kid-friendly. Try the Buffalo burger Reuben sandwich are favorites among adults. Open for breakfast and lunch.

2130 Main Street
Julian, Ca 92036

Jeremy’s on the Hill. If you’re up for a slightly nicer dining option, Jeremy’s on the Hill has a chef that the locals love and a menu that pleases the most discerning palates. Be aware that it’s on the pricier side for the area, but also know that you definitely get what you pay for. While it’s a nicer restaurant, it’s also family-friendly.

4354 Highway 78
Julian, Ca 92036

Julian has plenty of restaurants and cafes for visitors to enjoy lunch or dinner. For a complete listing, visit the Julian Chamber of Commerce website.

Getting There:

From San Diego, take the I-8 East to Highway 67 (heading toward toward Ramona). Highway 67 turns into Highway 78 in Ramona. Simply follow it to Julian. Alternatively, you can take I-8 East to Highway 79 and enjoy a drive through the Cuyamaca State Park, which will lead you to Julian.

From Carlsbad or Vista, simply take the 78 East to Julian. You can pick up the 78 East from the !-15 in Escondido or the !-5 in Carlsbad.

— Laura Willard